Allan S.B. Batuhan

Foreign Exchange

I JUST noted an interesting furor that has been going on in Cebu recently.

This concerns the “novel” technique of massage called “lingam” and whether it is a legitimate form of therapy, and if the parlors engaged in offering this type of massage are really proper spas or just convenient fronts for prostitution.

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The issue is so ludicrously funny, it should not even merit attention in the press at all, simply on the merits of the debate. Many of us already know the answer, and the excuses from the spa owners are quite frankly, lame and insulting to our intellect.

But the larger issue is the one that really merits the debate – how a Catholic Christian country like ours can tolerate the exploitation of innocent young women, along with our belief in the moral and religious teachings of our faith.

For many of these spas, the “lingam” treatment is just the prelude to what follows – the inevitable exchange of sexual services for a fee.

There is, for example, a famous chain of parlors in Cebu that is well-known for this. With branches in Lapu-lapu, Mandaue and Cebu cities, this chain also has a branch in Alabang, Metro Manila. Being close to affluent residential subdivisions, this branch is frequented by rich and famous personalities, who patronize the place for one reason alone – paid sex with its young and pretty massage therapists. Owned by a rich Cebuano businessman, their Alabang outlet has been raided a number of times by local police and even the NBI, and yet like mushrooms after a rain, the parlor has always managed to miraculously sprout again.

None of the girls in this chain of spas are trained “lingam” experts, but almost all of them are very attractive and presentable. And I doubt that any of the clients there will even recognize real “lingam” if it hit them in the face.

Many are there for one reason and one reason alone, and this is not something that can be covered up by any pretense of any ancient Indian massage therapy. This chain of spas even has a special reputation – that the owner himself personally “samples” the offering of his business, always unprotected, and without compensating the girls for their extra services.

So the Cebuanos should wise up quickly. For many spas (though I will not generalize that it is for all of them), “lingam” is just another cover for prostitution. Which is where the real issue really starts.

The defensive spa owners can justify in their conscience that tricking the general public to believe in the legitimacy of their services is justified, because their spas are their livelihood. Maybe they have even rationalized that they are offering young girls a chance to make money, and therefore their “sin” is more than justified, and even negated – again, the dichotomy between sin and need.

The girls and the customers will undergo the same process of rationalization as well. The girls have a need for money that only prostitution can satisfy, and the customers have a need for sex that is justified by the money they pay for the act of prostitution.

The situation is so hopelessly dire, I dread to think that we will never see the end of it in our time. But as a Catholic Christian nation, we have to rise to the challenge, however overwhelming it may be.

Prostitution, especially in the Philippines, is a scourge that must be eradicated, for it does not simply represent a sin against our faith. The way it is here, prostitution symbolizes everything that is wrong with our existing social order, and is the culmination of all the corrupt and broken social structures that the next president must fix, if we are to climb out from the abyss we are in, as a nation and people of real faith.

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